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John Charles Burnham

The royal visit to HM Factory Gretna during WW1 with exicted munitions workers.

John Charles Burnham Part 3

By Collections blog

John Charles Burnham comes to Gretna


In 1915 Burnham was loaned by his employers to the Ministry of Munitions and became Director of the Board of Management and Superintendent at H.M. Factory, Gretna a post which he held until 1921. During his time at Gretna, he was responsible for the smooth operation of the greatest factory in the world. Spanning nine miles across the Anglo-Scottish border and encompassing two purpose built townships, employing 30,000 people and creating over half of all the cordite produced in Britain during the War. Burnham oversaw it all.


In 1917 the King and Queen visited Gretna and Burnham was an integral part of their experience and can be seen in the photograph below standing in between the King and the other man (he is in the middle, walking slightly behind them).

At the end of the War, Burnham was a major part of the Armistice celebrations (his speech on November 11th 1918 was recorded in the local paper, the Annandale Observer as shown below).


John Charles Burnham.

John Charles Burnham Part 2

By Collections blog

John Charles Burnham in India


1894 – 1899


Burnham moved to India to work as Chief Chemist in an experimental Cordite Factory in Kirkee which is in the state of Maharashtra in West Central India (Mumbai is in the same state). The factory was listed as producing small arms and pistol ammunition. It is still there today.


1899 – 1915

Burnham was appointed Manager and Chemist at the Government of India Explosives Factory, Aruvankadu Nilgiris in the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India. This factory produced Cordite and gun cotton (and still produces explosives today).


His advice was sought by the Government on many occasions, and his services were recognised by the award of the Companion of the Star of India (CSI) in 1911 at the Delhi Durbar which was hosted by King George V and Queen Mary (photographed below).


You can see our previous article about John Charles Burnham here:


If you enjoyed this article then the following books (available from our online shop) may be of interest to you:

Gretna’s Secret War

The Devil’s Porridge Museum Guidebook

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